Nov. 26, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. We're joined by Maurice Crum, Jimmy Clausen and David Bruton. We'll start with questions.
Q. David and Mo, you guys both played. Mo, you started on defense. David, you played a lot of special teams in '05 that same year. I guess two part question. Your memories from that game against USC? And the second part would be what you could possibly draw from those memories to carry into this game, you were the prohibitive underdog that year and almost got those guys.
MAURICE CRUM: For me, I think the one thing that I can draw from that is just the idea that it can done. It just has to be a group collective effort; that everyone on the team has to buy in and just be ready to go and show no fear.
David Bruton: Yes, I was just watching that game earlier today just seeing how we played on defense and how we played on special teams.
We were flying around and pretty aggressive and showed a lot of enthusiasm, weren't backing down and not wavering. And I believe that's how we'll have to play.
Q. David, what was your role in that game? How often were you on the field?
David Bruton: I didn't play that game because I had pulled my hamstring that week.
Q. You were still there, though? What specific memories do each of you remember, besides the general stuff, but what specifically when you think of USC game 2005, what play, what moment, what stood out whether it's in the locker room, on the field, what do you remember most about that game?
MAURICE CRUM: The thing that I remember the most is actually probably just the build up to the game throughout the week. It was like no other feeling. Just a buzz around campus, just how things were going and just the whole build up was something that it was phenomenal to me because I was relatively young and that was the biggest game I'd ever played in my career. The thing I remember the most is kind of being in awe.
My most memorable moment from that game, I would have to say just watching Zibby's punt return that game, just seeing the effort that was put forth on special teams and being that I was a special teams role player that year and just seeing guys go out there and make plays against the top guys in the country.
And a lot of them were underclassmen at the time, too, and to go out there and make a game changing play, it sticks out.
Q. Three years later, it seemed that afternoon these programs were even, at least for one afternoon. Are you shocked you haven't beaten them, here you are in your last year, last regular season game, would you have guessed that you would be going into this game having lost two games in a row to them the way it's played out?
MAURICE CRUM: You find a player that thinks that way, then in my opinion they don't deserve to be playing on any team.
You never have that kind of mindset, especially if you're any kind of a competitor. Any kind of competitor is expecting to win every time he goes out, no matter what the situation brings or what happens. You just always expect to come out on top.
Q. Are you surprised you haven't beaten those guys considering how close it was just three years ago?
David Bruton: We just come out to play, we try to win. The goal is to win. Not to be close or play a very tight game, come down to a field goal or anything.
The objective is to get the W, to win. And they've had our number the past couple of years. But things can change.
Q. Mo and David, Mark Sanchez was an unknown sort of going into last year's game. What did you see from him last year? How have you seen him develop, studying him on film?
MAURICE CRUM: Personally, I think he's a pretty good player. He's a bit more mobile than some of the guys they've had in the past as far as running out of the pocket and using his feet to extend plays to try to make things happen.
And I really think he makes their offense go. He's a fiery guy, and he just has that look in his eye when you watch him play.
David Bruton: Yes, he's made numerous plays this year. Going into last year's game, we were uncertain how he was going to be. Probably do a lot of quick stuff. And now this year we've noticed him taking shots, throwing the ball with confidence, leading the team down the field on a regular basis to score a touchdown. And he's shown the maturity to lead a top notch program.
Q. I don't know if you would agree if he's the best quarterback you guys have seen so far this year. And having a quarterback who is that talented, how does it change things?
David Bruton: He's up there. He's up there in the quarterbacks we've played. He's shown great plays with his feet, with his arms. Like I've said, he's shown the ability to lead a team down the field even when they're in negative territory.
We're going to approach it the same way. He's going to we all know that quarterbacks can throw. He'll take shots on you. We've just got to be prepared and take the approach that we always do.
Q. Jimmy, obviously Mark Tyler is one of your best friends. He said he's already spoken to you this week. I don't know if you read the LA Times today, but his quote was that he is still undefeated in California. "Hopefully he'll leave here walking. I hope he makes it out of the coliseum alive." What's your reaction to that?
Jimmy Clausen: It's pretty funny. He said that to me last night when we were talking. But it's just like a friendship relationship. We are best friends. But when we go down there it will be good to see him and all the guys that I know down there. But come game time we've got to be ready to go and that's pretty much what it comes down to.
Q. You take it more as a joking comment than something serious?
Jimmy Clausen: He doesn't play defense so he's not going to knock me out or anything like that, so...
Q. Looking at their defense, what is it that they do just from what you've seen on tape that makes them so impressive and so difficult to really do anything against?
Jimmy Clausen: Well, first off, they're athletic. Fast, talented defense. They've got great coaches over there that put those guys in the right positions at the right time to be able to make plays.
And when you have great coaching and great athleticism on top of that, it's something perfect to be a great defense. And they are a pretty good defense. We watched a lot of tape on them already. And hopefully we'll be ready to go on Saturday.
Q. You did not play against this defense last year. Do you think it would have helped you having played this defense once before?
Jimmy Clausen: Not really. To be honest, in high school Clay Mathews is on the team. But we ran the same exact defense in high school as what SC runs right now. So I'm pretty familiar with their defense.
Q. Coach was talking earlier today about nonbelievers and how he told the other coaches to look for any nonbelievers, anyone that doesn't think they can win out there. You mentioned the need to believe. Do you think they'll find anyone on this team that doesn't think they can go out there and win?
MAURICE CRUM: I hope not, or else I'll have a serious issue with that guy. The coaches won't be the only people looking for guys like that. I'm pretty sure the coaches and the leaders on this team are going to make sure that the message is clear. And for guys who don't get it, we're going to have a problem.
Q. For outsiders, not in the locker room, they will say how can you lose to a Syracuse team that might be one of the worst teams in the bowl subdivision and go beat one of the best, is it hard for you guys to do that, or is it just natural competitive instinct?
MAURICE CRUM: It goes back to being a competitor week in, week out. Regardless what happened the week before, that's not the team you're playing the current week. So it almost has nothing to do with the next game. It's all about how you prepare for the weekend and how you go out on that next Saturday.
Q. David, looked like you took the loss pretty tough. It's Senior Day. You're hoping for a big thing. How tough is it for a guy who took it like that to get up for the next game, or is it easy when you're playing someone like USC?
David Bruton: It's USC week. You should always get up for that week. But for me I let my emotions get to me after the last week's game. And it sat with me. It was with me on Sunday as well.
But come yesterday and throughout the week, like that game's in the past and we have to move forward. For an older guy like myself and Mo and all the other seniors, that game is over. We can't get it back. We can't change things. It is what it is and we just have to step forward and try to change the tide.
Q. Jimmy, does this game have any special meaning for you going home playing against SC?
Jimmy Clausen: It does a little bit. Being from California and being recruited by SC, it's just a big rivalry. It's USC/Notre Dame. And there's no bigger game than that right there, especially going back, it's my hometown and playing. So we've just got to go out this week work hard in practice and get ready to go on Saturday.
Q. Is there a fine line here, because obviously you want to make some big plays and help the team win, but do you have to guard against you're playing against some of your buddies you went to high school with, do you have to guard against trying to do too much in this game?
Jimmy Clausen: You obviously want to make plays every single game. You've just got to be cognizant of the fact you've got to play within the system. And that's how you win games is play within the system and you can't do everything yourself.
And I know that and the guys on the offense know that. Defense knows that. You've just got to play within the system and just come out with a victory in the end.
Q. Coach on Sunday was talking about you being in a little bit of a rut before the Syracuse game. Did you feel like you were in a little bit of a rut? Have you put your finger on exactly why maybe you weren't doing as well as you had earlier in the season?
Jimmy Clausen: No. I was just out there trying to make plays. It's hard when guys are rolling over the top. Golden and Mike and not being able to run the ball as effectively as we want to, but just going out there trying to make plays.
Q. Did you feel like maybe you did have a better day passing on Saturday? Did you feel like you were clicking a little bit better on Saturday or was it just another day?
Jimmy Clausen: Just another day out there. Like I said, going out there trying to make plays and help this team win.
Q. How important is this game for you guys to get the running game going, give a little more time to throw the ball?
Jimmy Clausen: It's real important. A lot of things don't work in either the passing game or running game when you don't have the other. If you've got a great running team and they're playing coverage zero with eight guys in the box, it's pretty hard to run against that when you have guys coming for you. So it's the same situation when you're a good throwing team and guys are playing cover two and you don't really have that great running game. So it goes back and forth. And I know you've got to be a balanced team to do the best you can be.
Q. Thanksgiving, how do you plan on spending the day? What do you enjoy about it the most?
MAURICE CRUM: Well, for me it's just it's basically what I miss the most is just being home and being in that family setting with everyone around and that's the things that I'll miss the most.
But the one thing I've always made a habit of doing is calling back home and calling everyone just for a few minutes almost just to imagine myself there. Just listen to the things going on in the background and just have a conversation with my family and just tell everyone I love them and I'm thankful they're in my life.
David Bruton: Yeah, I haven't been home for Thanksgiving for four years. And I miss that family setting. Just used to be my mom, my dad, my brother. Just having a good time and I always call them and have a long winded conversation with them. For the past two years I've called home to talk to my son because I have yet to have a Thanksgiving with him. So I guess what I miss most is not having the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with him.
Q. You won't be there this year again?
David Bruton: No.
Q. How tough is that?
David Bruton: It's tough. You always want to spend a family holiday with your loved ones. But I'm up here and I've got this to do. And like I've said prior to today, it's what's best for him in the long run. I'm sure I'll catch some Thanksgiving with him in the future.
Jimmy Clausen: Same thing, I just miss being at home with my family, just having a big meal and just sitting by the TV watching football all day and just relaxing and just being with my family.
Q. What do you guys enjoy eating the most on Thanksgiving?
MAURICE CRUM: To go back in my memory, it has to be my grandmother's stuffing that she makes. And I always look forward to that. That's the first thing I put on my plate and the last thing I put on my plate. Definitely her stuffing.
David Bruton: Mine would have to be pumpkin pie, because I've got a sweet tooth. I don't do turkey and I don't do ham.
Jimmy Clausen: Mine's ham and I really don't like the Thanksgiving meal. But I'll just eat ham and some bread, that's pretty much it.
Q. And, finally, for the Thanksgiving questions, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
David Bruton: I'm thankful for my family and for all my friends and my teammates. I'm thankful for everybody who is part of my life and the fact that the Lord's blessed me with the ability and another day under my belt. I'm grateful for a lot. And it would be a long time for me to say my thanks.
MAURICE CRUM: For me, it's just my life. Every day I wake up I thank God for my life and just the opportunities that I've been given and all the people that have been placed in my life for whatever reason. And I'm thankful for that.
Jimmy Clausen: And I'm most thankful for my family first, and everyone that's influenced me in my life and just thank God for my health and everyone around me.
Q. Jimmy, what do they do to present the image that something is there when it's really not?
Jimmy Clausen: They like to man up against every team. They think that they can run with every team. And like I said earlier, they are a fast defense. They have good corners on the outside and safeties that can run. And I think when he's talking about baiting, I think he's talking about just challenging their corners and their safeties to throw deep. So I think that's what he's talking about.
Q. Could you give us perspective on what this rivalry is like from someone from Southern California, people in the Midwest understand what it is, the perspective. As someone from LA, what does this rivalry mean?
Jimmy Clausen: To be honest, they really don't like Notre Dame. They just think a little Catholic school in Indiana. No one knows where it is, where is South Bend, Indiana. To be honest, they really don't like Notre Dame and don't really respect Notre Dame.
I think Notre Dame respects USC like they should any team. But it's a great rivalry. I used to go to the games when Carson Palmer was there and when I was a young kid. So it's a lot of fun to watch those games.
Q. Mo, getting back to the question about being vested in with these guys on the team, what are you looking for in this team? And Coach Weis was asked about this earlier. Do you think that might be a legitimate concern this week, that after the emotional pull of last week, that there could be some guys that are struggling with that?
MAURICE CRUM: Again, I think when those kind of issues present themselves to a team, it's the job of the leaders to make sure that that situation is nipped really, really fast. Like Bruton said, for some of the older guys it was hard, the emotional part. But it's over with. And we can't get it back and look at the present week and present task at hand. It's our job to be the guys at the front to set the bar and it's their job to hold it up?
Q. Do you feel it's a legitimate issue for you guys this week?
MAURICE CRUM: I don't think so. Just watching the team yesterday and I try to look at the guys as they walk in, come in for a team meeting, just look at everyone's faces and how we go about the day and stuff. But the way guys went about yesterday, it was pretty good. And I think we're ready to go.
Q. David, do you do something similar to that as a captain?
David Bruton: Yeah, I always pull guys aside and make sure they're all right, make sure they're okay. And I try to get guys to forget about last week. Last weekend is last weekend. And try to schedule meetings so we can meet up and just start focusing on the team that we got that week.
We're taking an approach in which we're meeting like twice as much now because we're going to be prepared no matter what they throw at us. And guys are feeling pretty good about the approach and there's no one talking about Syracuse at all in the locker room. It's all about USC.
Q. For all three of you on the topic of motivation. Whether it be someone on the staff, Coach Weis, another player or just do it yourself, who kind of gets you guys fired up for the game and the question is who gets the team emotionally ready to play, who is the go to guy for that on the roster in this program?
MAURICE CRUM: I always look at myself first for any issues for anything this team needs. I've always told the other guys who are in leadership positions that it's our job to be whatever it is that this team needs us to be. So if we have to be that motivational guy, then it should come natural to us.
But, again, for me I always look at myself and start myself first. And I'm always passionate about football. And I wear my emotions on my sleeve about how I feel or how I'm feeling about going into the game. If I see the guys are flat, then it's my job to make sure they're not.
Q. Your perspective, David?
David Bruton: I'm going to have to say Mo, like he pulls guys together. If guys seem flat, he's always trying to get guys up.
Me, personally, I'm motivated myself. I do it a different way. I'm not really the loud guy who talks a lot. But with Mo, he takes it upon himself to get the team, the defense, get the special teams ready in whatever way he can, whether it's just talking to a guy one on one or pulling us all up together right before the half and giving us a motivational speech.
Q. Jimmy, the offense in that scenario?
Jimmy Clausen: To be honest, I don't really think there is someone like that. I think all the offensive guys are just internally motivated and ready to go. David Grimes does a great job of getting the guys ready to go.
I try to help out being the quarterback and just trying to help lead the guys, whether it's in the huddle or on the sidelines. If we're flat trying to get them excited and ready to go back out on the field and put a drive together and go score. But a lot of the guys on the offensive just are internally motivated.
Q. Corwin does a good job from a motivational coaching perspective. Is there a coach offensively that fires the offense up, or is that not the case?
Jimmy Clausen: You know, it depends. Whether it's Coach Haywood or Coach Latina, Coach Powlus, or Coach Ianello or Coach Weis. When Coach Weis comes over and has a offense or defense meeting, he's in there trying to get everybody fired up and ready to go. So it just depends.
Q. Why do you think you have struggled down the stretch of games and this season?
MAURICE CRUM: The one thing is probably just us playing consistent in the game or playing for a full 60 minutes, because there are times in games where we're all clicking, but for whatever reason it's unknown. The thing is we're just not consistent for the full 60 minutes.
Q. What about the offense?
Jimmy Clausen: I think the same thing. We've been consistent here and there. But whether it's finishing the game or starting out fast in a game, it's just little things here and there that's making this team a 6 5 team from a 9 2 team. There's just little, little things that have hindered us throughout the season to make us where we are right now.
Q. You've all been around long enough; you're part of the leadership and the production. Is that a fair criticism right now and how would you respond to the criticism?
MAURICE CRUM: For me personally, I could care less about what's going on. Because even when we're good, people are still questioning us: How good are they? So it goes both ways here.
We have to just deal with that. But the only thing that really matters is that the guys in house, the guys in the program, as long as they stand behind their leaders, their coaches, then the rest of the world doesn't really matter.
David Bruton: I'd agree. The only people that really matter are the guys who go out there, share the pain of practice with us, share the happiness of a win and the lows of a loss who are actually within the program and have put the countless hours in to become a good football team.
People talk about us whether we're winning. A couple years ago when we were ranked No. 2 they were wondering how good we were. There was still a lot of questions. And when we're losing they still ask a lot of questions.
It really doesn't matter what other people think. It's about what us leaders, what we do, what we think and how we approach every single game.
Q. Jimmy, anything to add to that?
Jimmy Clausen: As far as for what everyone's saying in the media and stuff like that, they're firing away at Coach Weis. But when it comes down to it, it's not the coaches that are out there throwing the ball, running the ball, blocking, making tackles. It's the players that are out there.
And I think we've got to take as much responsibility for this as what everyone's putting on the coaching staff and Coach Weis.
Q. Jimmy, last year you were a freshman surrounded by a lot of upper classmen. How difficult was it to earn the respect and how did you go about it?
Jimmy Clausen: It was real tough coming in early as a freshman, just trying to fit in with all the guys on the team and just trying to be one of the guys, come in, work as hard as I could, go out on the field, try to make as many plays as I can and just try to help the team win.
Q. And yesterday they had a picture of you with David after the Syracuse game. What did you say to David, and do you see it as part of your leadership role to make sure that other guys on the team are okay after a tough loss like that?
Jimmy Clausen: After the game on Saturday I felt real bad for all the seniors, all the guys that have put a lot of hard work and time and effort into this program, into this university. And to not be able to send those guys off with a victory and a victory lap around the stadium for their last time playing at Notre Dame Stadium was pretty tough. And I just felt that I needed to go up to a lot of the seniors and just tell them how I felt.
Q. And from a mental standpoint, has it been harder to deal with the past few weeks, or was it harder to deal with last year and your freshman season?
Jimmy Clausen: Are you talking about the losses and stuff? Last year was way worse. It was a tough year. Not only myself, but this whole team and the coaches, everyone associated with Notre Dame. It's tough. And this year we've had a few losses that we let slip away for whatever reason. But we're ready to go and we're fired up to play SC this weekend.
Q. How does it affect you when you see people criticizing Coach Weis? How is your relationship with him and how do you take it when people criticize him?
Jimmy Clausen: You know, it hurts a little bit. Me and Coach Weis have a great relationship. And like I said earlier, he's not the one out there making blocks, throwing passes, catching the ball, making tackles.
It's none of the coaches that are out there playing. It's all the guys in the locker room and it's just I just feel really bad for him and his family for getting all this criticism.
Q. You kind of touched on this before about growing up in Los Angeles, playing USC. Has your sense of the rivalry been enhanced since you've been here? What's your perspective on it, where you were at Notre Dame as opposed to now that you're here at Notre Dame?
Jimmy Clausen: It's gotten a lot bigger in my mind. I didn't play last year. But just being out on the field and seeing the two teams go at it, it's one of the biggest rivalries in college football. That's why I came here is to play in big games and big rivalry games like this one coming up on Saturday.
Q. Jimmy, how many close friends do you have out in USC and how close were they as players?
Jimmy Clausen: I probably know probably half the team. I know probably a dozen or more real close on the team.
Q. How close were you how much of a player was USC in your recruitment?
Jimmy Clausen: It was a big player. My final decision came down to Notre Dame and SC.
Q. What was the difference?
Jimmy Clausen: Just wanted to get away from California, just grow up in a different place. I just wanted to be away for a few years and I'll probably go live in California in the future. But just to get away and come to Notre Dame and be here, be coached by Coach Weis, and just have something special here at Notre Dame.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.